John Witvliet
John Witvliet

Framing Worship Lecture

Docents in the church

We train people to think that if you are not musical, you are not wired to engage in worship.

Three Docents

Dallas Children's Choir director

  • People making condescending remarks (cute) to and applauded the children's choir.

  • Turned song children were singing into a prayer to combat this

  • Will not clap after a prayer

  • "Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God" - "Here the Word of the Lord from the Gospel of Matthew"

  • Choir director taught the conversation not through lecture, but through example

  • Frame

Ohio pastor

  • Every fall, the pastor would go to every grade and teach the kids about worship

  • Order of worship (prayer - upward arrow, scripture - downward arrow, greeting - sideward arrow, offering - sideways arrow (giving to needs of congregation) upward arrow (giving to God), Lord's supper - all arrows) older member of the church been going to the church and finally understood worship

Chicago Tech guru

  • Made template powerpoint slides

    • Each slide had an image in the corner

  • Each image represented a type of worship

  • Kneeling image, serving image, etc.

  • Every week, the song would be projected, each week the symbol would be a part of it

    • Taught the kids the symbol for the slides

    • Kids were paying attention to the symbols that were coming across (told the kids that we would not have a balanced meal until we went through all of the slides)


  1. Words

  2. Visual cue/slides

  3. Rehearsal explanation

  4. Pulpit - ahead and retrospectively

    • the best kinds of frames for songs should be only as long as necessary

    • the less experience a congregation has with the Christian faith, the more important the frame becomes

  5. The frame should fit the artwork, and the congregation

Exercise - have third graders create a list of everything we do in worship


  • sing

  • listen to the pastor speak

  • pray

  • give money

  • move/sit

  • color

  • speak to God

  • God speaks to us

ADD sixth graders they say:

  • testify

  • confess

  • praise

ADD ninth grade:

  • anthems

  • sacraments

  • ordinances

*All of these things can be put into 3 categories

"We do ____ So that_____"

Docent was helping people sing so that they could experience prayer

  • in every moment, we are listening, we are singing

Internalize a theology of worship

  • found ways to invite people to experience worship as new covenant renewal

You really need a good theology of worship to be a good docent

  • otherwise, you will draw attention to the wrong things (performance, etc.)

Every one of these patterns is modeled for us in the psalms

Steve Guthrie - Athanasius' passion for the Psalms

Betrayal in music?

  • music that matches the text (minor key, minimal instrumentation)

  • pay attention to how it is framed (lament)

Framing for contemporary worship?

  • Read Psalm 117

  • Say you want to experience it in many ways

  • sing it from 4 different countries

many thematic planned services are examples of frames

Discussion: How do we call attention to those things without calling attention to the frame itself?